About the Museum of Namibian Fashion

Background to the project

PROJECT NAME: Preservation of Endangered Cultural Heritage Through Collaborative Conservation, Provenance Research And Creative Knowledge Production Using The Historical Collections From Namibia Held at the Ethnologisches Museum In Berlin (EM) And The National Museum Of Namibia, Windhoek (NMN)

The Museums Association of Namibia (MAN) is currently working in partnership with the National Museum of Namibia (NMN) and the University of Namibia (UNAM) on a project funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation and one component of the project is the development of the Museum of Namibian Fashion.

This collaborative project seeks to unlock the healing and creative potential of the colonial collections from Namibia held at the Ethnologisches Museum (EM) in Berlin, Germany and the Ethnographic Collection at the National Museum of Namibia in Windhoek. It reconnects the collections with each other and with their heritage communities, researchers and artists in Namibia.

Based on collaborative provenance research between Namibian and German scholars, objects from the EM in Berlin, Germany will be brought back to Namibia and put into dialogue with the historical collections of the NMN, forming the basis for training sessions in conservation, digitization, and curation. As part of the project, staff of the National Museum of Namibia, scholars and students from the University of Namibia, and staff of the Museums Association of Namibia (MAN) have been facilitating workshops with heritage experts and researchers, community representatives, and artists to engage with the collections at the NMN and conducting fieldwork with digitized collections in heritage communities throughout the country.

The project’s aim is to reactivate knowledge about the objects, to document immaterial cultural heritage and to provide a vital source of inspiration for artists and designers. The knowledge thus created, including oral histories and artworks, will be shared with the wider public in an online database, a publication, and an exhibition at a newly founded Museum of Namibian Fashion (as well as in an exhibition at the NMN in Windhoek to be conceptualized in the second phase of the project). By reconnecting stakeholders in Namibia with colonial collections from Berlin and Windhoek, the project seeks to engage with colonial trauma, to spur new cultural production, and to envision decolonial, creative futures.


Creating the Museum of Namibian Fashion

Museums are the custodians of our cultural heritage. The Museums Association of Namibia (MAN) believes that one of the important reasons why we should preserve artifacts is because their meaning and design can inspire young Namibians working in the creative industries.

It is for this reason that MAN has held a stakeholders’ workshop to discuss the concept of establishing a Museum of Namibian Fashion. The idea is that the museum will provide an opportunity for visitors to view historical items of clothing and accessories, as well as contemporary designs inspired by Namibia’s rich history and cultural diversity. The workshop produced some lively discussions about the definition of Namibian Fashion’ which will be important to determine the scope of the museum. Participants also urged collaboration with archaeologists and rock art specialists so that the pre-photography’ history of Namibian clothing can be included in the museum.

A competition was also launched to design a logo for the new museum. The successful designer won a stay at a Lodge sponsored by the Gondwana Collection and a Safari Sweater and Card Holder sponsored Couture by Kim.

Another workshop held by MAN in the process of the development of the Museum of Namibian Fashion was the Mudwaro workshop which invited Namibian fashion designers, seamstresses and tailors making clothes and accessories to participate. The workshop gave individuals working in the industry the opportunity to interact with historical artifacts. The aim of the workshop was to inspire young Namibian creatives to draw on our cultural roots to develop products that can be worn and will have a uniquely Namibian identity. After the workshop, participants were invited to submit ideas for making an item or accessory. A number of participants will be commissioned to produce products for show or sale at the Museum of Namibian Fashion

The Museum of Namibian Fashion showcase the past, present and future fashion artefact from Namibia. The Museum also intends to create workshops, residency and other activities that will benefit Fashion designers and seamstresses in terms of training and income-generating opportunities.

The Museum of Namibian Fashion is located in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, and was inaugurated on 01st June 2022 by Hon. Faustina Caley, Deputy Minister of Education, Arts, and Culture.


The Virtual Museum of Namibian Fashion

The Museums Association of Namibia (MAN) believes that museums should be living organisms that should be updated regularly and able to easily adapt to change. With that said, MAN has realized that the COVID-19 pandemic requires museums to adapt and to do things differently. As a result, the idea of a Virtual Museum of Fashion was birthed and with funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the development of the virtual museum was made possible.

The web site enables visitors to view items, but also to interact with them by adding comments as well as submitting photographs for possible display in the virtual museum. Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala from MAN said “We believe that in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to do things differently. A virtual museum of fashion could created an interactive educational space where we can also showcase Namibian culture to both local and international audiences”.